Federal fishery regulators forced to postpone official decisions during shutdown

(North Pacific Fishery Management Council)

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council may not be able to make any official decisions at its February meeting due to the partial federal government shutdown.

Congress’s battle over funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border is also causing the council, which regulates federal fisheries in the North Pacific Ocean, to remove some items from the agenda.

Employees at the federal register are no longer working. The council’s Deputy Director Dianna Evans said it needs to publish notices for final action items in the register by Jan. 21.

“There are three actions on our February agenda that are scheduled for final action,” she said. “At this point, unless we can meet those notification requirements, the council will likely be required to take perhaps a preliminary final determination for those different actions and actual final action will need to be rescheduled for another time.”

That means the council may not be able to set catch limits for the summer red king crab fishery in Norton Sound, which starts in May. The council is also due to take final action on agenda items surrounding rockfish retention and tweaks to regulations for leasing halibut and sablefish quota.

The council is also removing discussion papers on increasing fees fishermen pay for observer coverage and changes to economic data reporting requirements in the fishing industry.

“Because we were not able to ensure we would have adequate review or collaboration to get input from National Marine Fisheries Service staff, that’s why we decided to postpone those action items,” Evans explained.

Committee meetings that take place outside of the council’s decision-making process may also be impacted for the same reason. Evans said council staff will update the schedule and agenda online if any additional changes are made.

The council will meet Feb. 4 through the 6 in Portland.

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